If scoring brand names is your holy grail and you don’t mind doing the legwork (or bringing your own bag), here are a few of our favorite Chicago thrift stores for starting your own pilgrimage.
These dressing room-less treasure troves are located all throughout Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana — and every last thrifter has their own definition of the “best” one. You’ll definitely earn your keep as you elbow through the improbable amount of clothing and shoes but, the first time you score that vintage Samsonite or those Nine West heels? Worth every (potentially sticky) step.
Pro tip: Familiarize yourself with each store’s colored-tag sale days; you could score up to half off just for showing up.
These shops, owned by the same parent company and scattered throughout Chicago and surrounding suburbs, are the gold standard for many. Always clean and well-lit, one thrifter incredulously noted that they even feature products according to size. Both Savers and Unique have stricter rules for what makes it out onto the racks, making somewhat higher prices more than worth it. (Their policies for working with community non-profits and recycling and donating unsold items to developing countries feel pretty nice, too.)
Pro tip: Signing up for their email list is an easy way to be alerted to secret, members-only sales — and guarantees you’re first in line for those pristine ladybug rain boots.
Benefitting adult rehabilitation centers as well as providing a variety of services for children and families, Salvation Army stores frequently win the Best in Show for housewares, furniture and a wide array of clothing, as well as having a name as ubiquitous as Kleenex or Coke. Their shops are plentiful in the Chicagoland area, but the one just south of Fullerton and Clybourn has a fairly devoted fan base. (One fan digs their “Target prices for designer brands.”)
Pro tip: The women’s jean selection — from brand names to a plethora of sizing — is unmatched.
With locations in the Andersonville and Lakeview neighborhoods of Chicago plus a spot in Oak Park, this resale shop that benefits the Howard Brown Health Center and the LGBTQ+ community has long been a shopper’s paradise. While the price tag might be a little higher than some of the bargain basements, the quality (and originality) of pieces is unparalleled.
Pro tip: Need furniture? Start (and end) here.
A closely guarded secret (sorry) in Lincoln Square, this place boasts the trifecta of clean, quality and value. (They also employ a downright marvelous voucher system that gives back to families in need in that very community.) While everything from housewares to jewelry can be coveted here, it’s the selection of children’s items that make this 5,000 square foot wonderland a spot for serious bargain-hunters.
Pro tip: Normally pricey baby items, a la Aden & Anaïs blankies, can sometimes even be found in their original packaging.